Did You Hear About What Happened To The Innovative School District?

From June of 2016 concerning the Achievement School District, now the Innovative School District (ISD):

With just days remaining in the N.C. General Assembly’s short session, leaders on the Senate Education Committee have given their approval to achievement school districts, a GOP-backed model of school reform that may clear for-profit charter takeovers of low-performing schools.

Committee Chair Jerry Tillman, a Republican who supports the measure, declared the “ayes” to have won the vote Friday, although to some listeners, the voice vote appeared to be evenly split or favoring the opposition.

House Bill 1080, the long-gestating work of Rep. Rob Bryan, a Republican from Mecklenburg County, will allow state leaders to create a pilot program pulling five chronically low-performing schools into one statewide district. From there, the state could opt to hand over control of the schools, including hiring and firing powers, to for-profit charter operators.

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“They will make great growth,” declared Tillman. “That’s a fact.”

Also from June of 2016:

Other critics pointed out a similar system in Tennessee had not produced better academic results. But Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said the Tennessee plan tried to do too much, too quickly.

“These models have worked and will work if you don’t go too big,” Tillman said. “These schools will do a great job for these kids. It’s something we need to try.”

Too much, too quickly. Well that Tennessee model has had another three years to work things out. And now this.

ASDISD1

Let’s clarify a couple of things:

  • No model of this ASD  / ISD has ever worked. The Tennessee model has had years to work itself out. It didn’t.
  • There is only one school in the current NC ISD. It doesn’t get any “don’t go too big” than that.
  • The guy who brought up the legislation, former Rep. Rob Bryan who came back to finish Dan Bishop’s term, worked for the very charter company that first presided over the ISD in North Carolina.

And there was this from the summer of 2019:

The state program designed to turn around North Carolina’s lowest performing schools is now without a superintendent or a principal.

That’s the opening line from an article posted in the News & Observer from July of 2019 entitled “NC program to take over low-performing schools loses superintendent and principal.

An “innovative” school district run by an out-of-state for-profit charter chain that employed the NC rep who pushed it through the NCGA with a voice vote presided over by Sen. Jerry Tillman that still has only one school was then on its third superintendent and its second principal.

With no real growth. And the model on which it was constructed was declared a failure.

reforms4

Southside Ashpole Elementary:
4 – F’s
Everything else is an “I” which stands for “Insufficient Data.”
1 – Not Met’s
2 – Met

Now finally in late 2021:

Liz Schlemmer’s thread says it pretty well.

No Student Should Ever Be Called “What the cows leave behind” – About Our Lt. Gov. & NC’s Voucher System

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is on the State Board of Education.

He launched an initiative that is nothing more than a witch hunt against teachers that he disguised as a battle against “indoctrination.”

And he says really repugnant things about gay people.

That statement was made while speaking from the pulpit of Berean Baptists Church in Winston-Salem during the church service a couple of Sundays ago.

The highest ranking GOP official in the state who has power over the state public school system and wants to run for the highest office in the state that directly controls the funding of said school system just described some of the students serviced by that school system as cow sh^&.

The church in which he made those specific comments also houses its own private school.

According to that site, the school has 37 students.

According to Privateschoolreview.com, the school has 17 students who pay less than $3,000 in tuition.

This site claims that there are 17 students.

Niche.com claims that there are only 15 students.

And it has received state funds in the form of vouchers (Opportunity Scholarships).

The North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority maintains a public site to track what schools receive what monies in the form of tax-payer funded vouchers.

In the 2021-2022 school year, Berean Baptist’s Christian School received over $35,000 in monies.

In the 2020-2021 school year, 11 students were awarded Opportunity scholarships.

11 students in a school that has 37 or 17 or 15 students, the percentage of students receiving the state-sponsored voucher to go to a school run by a church that lauds the views of a man like Robinson is more than disconcerting.

In short Robinson has proven to be a person who should never be governor in a state whose voucher system needs a tremendous amount of oversight it currently does not have.

“Average” Vs. “Actual” When It Comes To Teacher Salary Raises

So, the new budget in NC will include what Sen. Phil Berger lauds as an average 5% raise for teachers.

Remember that most state employees also receive longevity pay on a yearly basis – not teachers though. And that raise is also over the biennium which means that it is an “average” of 2.5% a year, if that. Oh, that also includes the step raises that were already in place.

The operative word here is “average”. What GOP stalwarts purposefully fail to tell you is that most of the raises occur at the lower rungs of the salary schedule. Of course, you can raise the salary of first year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of maybe 10-15%. You would only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise and the OVERALL average raise still looks good, and not much money has to be invested.

“Average” does not mean “actual”. But it sounds great to those who don’t understand the math.

This report reflects a whopping double standard of the NC General Assembly and a total contradiction to what is really happening to average teacher pay. Just follow my logic and see if it makes sense in how “average” is used here.

Think about the narrative that is pushed by many to prod the public into thinking that North Carolina teachers are actually paid well.

JLF1

The last ten years have seen tremendous changes to teacher pay. For new teachers entering in the profession here in NC there is no longer any graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay (for anyone), and a changed salary schedule that only makes it possible for a new teacher to top out on the salary schedule with a little over 50K per year.

So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 50K when no one can really make much over 50K as a new teacher in his/her entire career unless they all become nationally certified (which takes a monetary investment by the teacher to start)?

Easy. North Carolina is counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgusted the former governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout this new wonderful “average.”

Furthermore, this average is counting on local supplements. This comes in the face of budgets that are allocating less money to each central office of each school system for administrative costs. Now each county has to raise more money to actually offset those costs and also allow for local supplements. And not all localities provide the same supplements.

Plus, those LEA’s will have to do something in the next few years to raise even more money to meet the requirements fo the delayed class size mandate.

Any veteran teacher who is making above 50K based on seniority, graduate pay, and national boards are gladly counted in this figure. It simply drives up the CURRENT average pay. But when these veteran teachers who have seniority, graduate pay, and possibly national certification retire (and many are doing that early at 25 years), then the very people who seem to be a “burden” on the educational budget leave the system.

In actuality, that would drive the average salary down as time goes on. If the top salary that any teacher could make is barely over 50K (some will have higher as National Board Certified Teachers, but not a high percentage), then how can you really tout that average salaries will be higher?

You can if you are only talking about the right here and right now.

The “average bear” can turn into a bigger creature if allowed to be mutated by election year propaganda. That creature is actually a monster called the “Ignoramasaurus Rex” known for its loud roar but really short arms that keep it from having far reaching consequences.

Remember the word “average” is a very easy word to manipulate. Politicians use it well. In this case, the very teachers who are driving the “average” salary up are the very people that the state wants to not have in a few years. There will then be a new average. It can’t possibly be over 50K then if current trends keep going.

Simply Put, This NCGA Does Not Want Veteran Public School Teachers

Please do not look at that average 5% salary raise for teachers and think that all teachers are getting a 5% raise. Besides the fact that it includes already in place step increases and that it is over two years (the budget is biennial), average means that some people get a bigger percentage raise than others. Veteran teachers are not getting much of a raise.

What is even more egregious is that there were conditions and other elements that had been taken away years ago that were not even remotely restored in this new budget that is three years overdue while the state is sitting on enormous surplus without even addressing LEANDRO.

What a veteran teacher received ten years ago compared to what a veteran teacher who would start a career in NC today is quite startling.

Not only is there a significant loss in projected income but ramifications on being able to get health care after retirement and not having to fear reprisal in standing up for students and schools in advocating.

Specifically there are four distinct actions taken to keep teachers in NC’s public schools from retiring as teachers in public schools.

Removal of due-process rights. At one time the NC General Assembly took away due-process rights for all teachers. It was ruled unconstitutional by the court system in the case for those veteran teachers who already got those rights when they became fully certified. However, newer teachers in the profession will not get due-process rights in North Carolina. That will surely inhibit those teachers from advocating loudly for schools in the future for fear of reprisal.

Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed – Because advanced degree pay is abolished, many potential teachers will never enter the field because that is the only way to receive a sizable salary increase to help raise a family or afford to stay in the profession. It also cripples graduate programs in the state university system because obtaining a graduate degree for new teachers would place not only more debt on teachers, but there is no monetary reward to actually getting it.

Longevity Pay – In the long session of 2014, the NC General Assembly raised salaries for teachers in certain experience brackets that allowed them to say that an “average” salary for teachers was increased by over 7%. They called it a “historic raise.” However, if you divided the amount of money used in these “historic” raises by the number of teachers who “received” them, it would probably amount to about $270 per teacher.That historic raise was funded in part by eliminating teachers’ longevity pay. Similar to an annual bonus, this is something that all state employees in North Carolina — except, now, for teachers — gain as a reward for continued service. The budget rolled that money into teachers’ salaries and labeled it as a raise. That’s like me stealing money out of your wallet and then presenting it to you as a gift.

Retiree Health Benefits – If you are hired as a new teacher after 2020 is over, you will not have something that teachers hired before 2021 have: retiree health benefits. A recent report in the News & Observer explains that the budget set forth in 2017’s long session of the NCGA did away with retiree health benefits for hires on and after January 1, 2021 to “save money.”

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No wonder NC has a teacher shortage and a teacher candidate shortage.

Something Tells Me That Our Lt. Gov. Would Totally Support This

Considering his penchant for the dramatic to stoke unwarranted drama and aim the public’s ire at public school teachers, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson would probably be in total support of duplicating this effort to reward people with money for reporting teachers in North Carolina.

It’s happening in New Hampshire.

Peter Greene, the well-known education writer and blogger, wrote about this for Forbes Magazine.

More reason that Mark Robinson should never become governor in 2024.

“Rogue Judge” Rules For Public Schools. Thing Is, He’s Not Rogue; He’s Right.

Just came in today:

Superior Court Judge David Lee on Wednesday ordered state finance executives to move $1.7 billion in unused funds to education agencies, bypassing the North Carolina General Assembly.

Of course, Berger and Moore will not stand for such decisions as it goes against their agenda. From a new post from the News & Observer:

Moore and Berger have made sure that a new budget not be passed for three years. And they have screamed about “judicial advocacy” for years as their maps for districting and calls for voter ID laws have repeatedly met with defeat in the courts.

Also, noteworthy is the mention of Dale Folwell who should be very aware of the financial situation that the public school are in.

Yes, the NC GOP will fight this move. It’s what Berger and Moore decree. But they have always fought against funding public education while attacking teachers and crowing about false issues such as CRT and indoctrination all while trying to eliminate corporate taxes in NC.

If you are in a rural county, you should totally support what Judge Lee has done with this LEANDRO funding decision. Folwell has already hinted at having localities foot more of the bill for public services and that rainy-day surplus was built on the backs of working citizens and not corporations.

Before We Challenge Books, We Should Be Challenged By Them – In Defense of Being Uncomfortable And What Toni Morrison Taught Me

Toni Morrison passed just a little over two years ago. She was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and what she did (and still does) for this white, upper middle class male teacher is something that I will always value as a life-long student: she made me understand that I don’t understand.

And she made me uncomfortable in my own skin to the point it still forces me to take a hard objective look at myself, my actions, and how I treat others. She also makes me look at the past through different lenses, especially my upbringing in a small rural town in Georgia.

Tomi Morrison was the author of some of the most banned and challenged books in American libraries and classrooms. From a February, 2016 article by Micheal Schaub in the Los Angeles Times:

Maybe they should call it Toni Morrison week. In 2016, Banned Books Week will spotlight works by authors of color. And Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, is one of the authors of color whose works are now most banned and challenged.

Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” was in the top 10 most challenged books in 2014 (the most recent year for which data are available) and 2013. In 2012, it was her novel “Beloved.” In 2006, both “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved” made the top 10. During the decade prior, a tally of the 100 most banned and challenged books has three Morrison titles: “The Bluest Eye” at No. 32, “Beloved” at No. 45 and “Song of Solomon” at No. 84.

In a news release, the American Library Association said that estimates indicate that more than half of challenged or banned books are from non-white writers. The group says this year’s Banned Books Week “will celebrate literature written by diverse writers that have been banned or challenged, as well as explore why diverse books are being disproportionately singled out in the first place.”

Other books by writers of color that are perennial targets are Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian,” Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner,” Rudolfo Anaya’s “Bless Me Ultima” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

That town I grew up in Georgia? It’s just 25 miles from where Alice Walker grew up, and I had the privilege of taking one of Maya Angelou’s classes while attending Wake Forest University.

Experiences reading both and actually interacting with one challenged me as a student, but especially as a teacher in public schools whose students come from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds and are experts of where they have come from. That means I always have to be willing to learn and listen and be challenged, and sometimes be uncomfortable.

Thinking about how Toni Morrison’s books have been challenged reminded me of a post I had in December of 2016. My view has not changed.

From that post:

News that a Virginia school district recently pulled its copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from all of its classrooms and school libraries is another disturbing sign of what might be part of what divides America so much as evidenced by the recent presidential election: the fear of being challenged by what others have to say.

Of course, I am biased on the issue of banning books and removing them from circulation in libraries in schools based on the concerns of one or a couple of parents. I am a high school English teacher who teaches AP classes. It infringes on censorship in my mind, especially if that book has been a staple in American schools for quite a while such as Harper Lee’s classic and Twain’s iconic work.

Now, that does not mean that I want all students to read Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth or Lolita by Nabokov, but great literature is meant to be an exploration of sorts into the perspective of society in which the book was written.

It’s sort of like an archaeological dig into the past that allows us to experience how society viewed itself, viewed others, and what society held dear. It also teaches us how we have changed, whether for the better or for the worse. Great literature is meant to challenge us on a variety of levels.

  • If you want to read how the Industrial Revolution and the rise of cities began to change the nuclear family, then read Dickens.
  • If you want to see how the rise of the atomic age and Communism changed our perception as a society, then read Bradbury, Huxley, or Orwell.
  • If you want to see how the role of women in society has been more of a battle for equality than we would like to admit as a country, then read Chopin and then pick up some Atwood.

Great social movements tend to be preceded by works of literature and music that allow for ideas of thought and emotion to be expressed and take root. Look at the Harlem Renaissance and the subsequent Civil Rights Movement. Less than half a century after the Civil Rights Act, we elected our first minority president.

I distinctly remember in 2013 one parent in Randolph County, NC complained about Invisible Man, arguably the most famous novel from the Harlem Renaissance. The school board removed it from the schools for a short while. From NPR.org:

“A North Carolina county voted this week to ban Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man from school libraries. The Asheboro Courier-Tribune reports that the decision followed a complaint from a parent, who called the novel “too much for teenagers.” The decision was 5-2, with one board member claiming, “I didn’t find any literary value.” The 1952 novel, which won the National Book Award, is among the most famous novels dealing with black identity — and black invisibility — in America. The famous opening lines of the novel read, “I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

My first argument is if the book itself is too much for teenagers, then teenagers are in for a rude awakening when they as teenagers go off on their own in the world of college or the work force.

Just look at the news today.

However, my second inclination is to ask the parent and that school board member who made the comment about literary value of Ellison’s (or even Morrison’s) work if either had actually read the book.

And allowed the book to challenge him/her.

Great literature teaches us about ourselves, especially the parts of ourselves that we do not want to acknowledge but that control how we perceive others and how we treat others. And in a nation where many hold the Second Amendment and guns with as much fervor as it does the Bible (which by the way is one of the most challenged books in the country), should we not also look at the First Amendment and its protection of the freedom of speech as dearly?

The very man who was until 2020 the president of the United States freely exercised his right for freedom of speech through his Twitter account. He exercised that right because he could. That is until….

Did I agree with him? Hardly ever. And that’s my right. But having read great works of literature challenges me and forces me to have difficult and uncomfortable, yet peaceful, confrontations with issues and society.

I do not believe that that president was willing to be challenged and be uncomfortable. I think part of the reason is that he doesn’t read. And what I mean by that is that he did not allow himself to be challenged by the words, the actions, the viewpoints, and the events that have shaped this country. In fact, when he “wrote” his books, he has someone do it for him.

Take a look at this report from a 2013 issue of The Week entitled “America’s most surprising banned books.”

It includes: Tarzan, the DictionaryCharlotte’s Web, Anne Frank’s account of her hiding, The Lorax, “Little Red Riding Hood”, Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Twelfth Night by Shakespeare.

You need to read it. And if you are going to challenge works of literature based on sexual imagery, then that would eliminate almost all of Shakespeare except Julius Caesar, but that has people washing the hands in the blood of a murder victim, soothsayers, and talking ghosts.

Maybe the fact Toni Morrison is one of the most challenged and banned authors is a statement that our society is afraid to look at itself through the eyes of others who have lived lives along different paths. That fear leads to division and that division manifests itself in so many ways, including violence.

This country desperately needs to learn about itself and listen to those whose viewpoints and experiences and words can challenge us to be better than we were yesterday and better than we are today.

This country needs to be a country of learners.

And Toni Morrison was and still is a great teacher.